Research tells us that children who have positive feelings and knowledge about their bodies, accurate information about sexuality, a sense of autonomy and power over their bodies, and open communication with their parents, are less likely to be targeted by abusers.
If talking about these issues raises strong emotions because of your own history of sexual abuse, seek support and resources for yourself.
Talk About Healthy Sexuality
- Think about the messages you want to share—beforehand.
- Start talking to them early and do it often.
- Be open, honest, and positive.
- If you are uncomfortable talking about sexuality, practice.
- Seek opportunities. Take advantage of “teachable moments.”
- Provide your children with accurate information—appropriate to their ages and ability to understand.
- Show your children they can talk to you anytime and about anything.
- Be approachable. Listen. Try to understand their points of view.
- Be a consistent, reliable source they can go to with all their questions.
- Use the proper names for body parts (e.g., nose, ears, penis, vagina, etc.)
- Respond calmly when your children display sexual behaviors or ask questions that make you uncomfortable.
- Think about what you want to say before you say it.
- Don’t just talk about “sex.” Share your values and beliefs.
- Don’t wait until your children ask questions. Some may never ask.
- Learn the stages of healthy sexual development and what to teach children at each stage.
Talk About Personal Safety
- Set and respect clear boundaries/privacy.
- If someone violate these boundaries, it is your responsibility as adults to enforce the boundaries.
- As your children grow, encourage them to take ownership over their bodies (e.g., to dress and bathe themselves).
- Teach your children about setting personal boundaries and getting consent.
- Talk about what friendship is and isn’t.
- As your children get older, talk about healthy relationships (e.g., respect and trust, equal power).
- Establish and teach your children safety rules about private parts of their bodies.
- Let your children know it's okay to say “no” if someone does not follow the safety rules and okay to tell a trusted adult.
- Be careful not to suggest that your children should protect themselves from sexual predators. Be clear that keeping them safe is an adult’s job.
- Teach your children that secrets about touching and pictures are never okay, no matter who asks them to keep the secret.
- Help your children identify trusted adults they feel they can turn to for help.